(Ming Pao)

Shanghai Evening News carried an essay titled "New Heroes Rush Into Shanghai Bund, No Restrictions On Place Of Origin, All Of Them Elites" written by someone named Dawei.  This essay drew the protests of Shanghai residents, including a retired national leader who personally called the Shanghai city party secretary Yu Zhengsheng to express his concerns.  Upon Yu's order, Shanghai Evening News has held an internal meeting and issued a statement yesterday to admit that the essay has "hurt the feelings of Shanghai readers."

(Shanghai Evening News)  New Heroes Rush Into Shanghai Bund, No Restrictions On Place Of Origin, All Of Them Elites.  By Dawei.  February 6, 2009.

In the 50 years before the 1980's, the people of Shanghai are of one version with two special characteristics: they have a Shanghai city household registration booklet and they speak the Shanghai dialect.  These were known as "old Shanghainese."  The new Shanghainese today do not speak the Shanghai dialect and they also have two special characteristics: They have diplomas for higher education and they have commercial grade housing ownership deeds.  In the past, old Shanghainese was like one big pot of porridge where the rice and water cannot be separated; today, the new Shanghainese are like a piece of glutinous rice cake where every bit is distinguishable.

There used to be a popular (but somewhat extreme) saying that was known across all of China: "To the people of Beijing, everyone else is a subordinate; to the people of Guangdong, everyone else is a northerner; to the people of Shanghai, everyone else is a country bumpkin."  When I was young, we even called the vegetable growers in rural Shanghai "country bumpkins."  The country bumpkins sat on the pile of vegetables being hauled to the market by their tractors and rebutted us: "Your mom was a country bumpkin too!"  That is correct, because my parents came from Shandong province.

The new Shanghainese are most concentrated in the Pudong district inside those tall office buildings.  In Pudong, especially in Lujiazui, everybody speaks putonghua.  To speak the Shanghai dialect is a sign of being uncivilized, like being a native American Indian.  In the restaurants and hotels of Pudong, the service people who hold the door will say "Mister" in putonghua.  But in Puxi along the gourmet street on Huanghe Road, they will knock on your car door and say in Shanghai dialect: "Brother, brother, are you looking for some place to eat?"  This shows how the densities of old and new Shanghainese vary.

There is a phenomenon in the real estate industry: outsiders like to buy homes in Pudong, especially the better ones where more than half of the buyers are from the outside.  <Wenzhou Evening News> organized a tour group to come to Shanghai to buy homes.  Someone said that the real estate price in Pudong is so high because of these outside speculators.  At the famous institutes of higher education, most of the graduate students are from the outside.  Outsiders are like the Japanese, where people like Sanshiro Sugata go around challenging everything; the Shanghaiese are like the French, who like the atmosphere in the bars of Hengshan Road.  The women are even more practical for they are the cream of the nation.  In the past, they will marry only Shanghai men.  By the 1980's, it was fashionable for them to marry foreign men.  At the time, I was a "handsome young man," but I had to agree with the saying: white hair is not as good as black hair, and black hair is not as good as blonde hair.  Thus, Chinese pretty women were marrying American Chinese men.  Today, marriage is no longer so private.  The classified ads in newspapers are very explicit: "Don't mind if you were married before, and don't care what your place of origin is."  The key point is: "Successful career."  Those who have successful careers are the elite, and they are often the heroes who have ventured into the Shanghai Bund from the outside.